You’re slammed. E-mail is pouring into your inbox like dry sand into a hole you dug at the beach - which is where you wish you were. Then you see it. Among the dozens of “!” subject lines screaming for attention is an e-mail telling you that your trademark registration is due for maintenance or renewal. (It could be an old-fashioned letter, too.) You quickly sign the notice, cut a check, and drop the form in the mail. Done! After all, you don’t want to lose the exclusive right to your coveted business brand.
Fast forward a year or two: You get a reminder from the Trademark Office that the same trademark registration is due for renewal. You pause. You vaguely recall filing the renewal two years ago, and trademark renewals are due every ten years. WHAT? Unfortunately, you’ve been had by a new twist on an old scam: the really, really early fake notice.
Trademark “maintenance” fraud is just one more way scam artists are luring payments from unsuspecting business owners. Recently some of our clients - who we have been warning about these fraudsters for decades - have noticed a new variation on this old swindle: The fake notices are arriving up to two years before anything is actually due to be filed with the Trademark Office.
Before sending anyone money, practice a little due diligence. Here are a few steps you can take to avoid becoming a victim of trademark maintenance scams:
- Call your attorney. They will know exactly when your filings are due, and when maintenance is required for all of your trademarks. Typically, your lawyer will receive any notice for renewal, not you.
- Review the notice carefully. The scam will look official and urgent. But what does the fine print say? Many say they are not associated with the Trademark Office, despite the attempt to look just like an official government notice. What is the return address? When is your trademark maintenance really due? You can always check your Trademark status online at the United States Patent and Trademark Office website.
- How much are they asking for? The scammers spend a lot of money on postage and want a good return on their investment. While some ask for a few hundred dollars, others ask for thousands.
- Learn more at USPTO. Scams are so common that the Trademark Office now has a page collecting them. Visit “Caution: Misleading Notices” for the list.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Charles F. Luce, Jr.